Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens trace their roots to the late 19th century as the conservation-minded, pioneering counterparts of the more storied Texas Rangers. Their mission started simple enough, to prevent the overhunting of Texas wild game. But while “Law Enforcement Off the Pavement” remains their motto, they’ve long expanded beyond their original duties.
Game wardens now have more than a half-dozen K-9 teams trained in narcotics detection, manhunts and cadaver location. They have a SWAT-like tactical response team, a search-and-rescue squad and a forensics reconstruction and mapping team, among others. And they have been deployed, like DPS troopers, from around Texas to patrol the border.
If their history is intertwined with the state’s pioneering spirit — game wardens are the subject of a current Animal Planet TV show called “Lone Star Law” — it has also been marked by a lack of diversity.
Five years after Parks and Wildlife officials pledged to diversify the agency’s law enforcement ranks following federal complaints over how the Texas game wardens operated, the agency has failed to hire more women or African-Americans officers. Click here to visit MyStatesman.com and read the American-Statesman’s full analysis of where progress has been made and where the department continues to be stuck in the past.